Give Now

A Moment of Science

C-sections and Cavities

For mothers with dental cavities, a C-section birth might not be so easy on the baby's future teeth.

Photo: Mandy Jouan

According to a study done by researchers at New York University, C-section babies are more likely to get cavity-causing bacteria earlier and more frequently than vaginally-born babies.

Of the two birthing methods, vaginal and C-section, the latter is normally harder on the mother, who has her abdomen cut open, and seemingly easier on the baby, who doesn’t have to squeeze through the narrow birth canal.

However, for mothers with dental cavities, a C-section birth might not be so easy on the baby’s future teeth. According to a study done by researchers at New York University, C-section babies are more likely to get cavity-causing bacteria earlier and more frequently than vaginally-born babies.

The researchers think this has to do with exposure to bacteria at birth. Vaginally-born babies encounter many different types of bacteria when they’re born, giving them a chance to develop resistance to a variety of infections early on. C-section babies, on the other hand, encounter far fewer varieties of bacteria. So there’s a greater chance that they’ll have less resistance to bacterial infection, including the type that can cause tooth decay.

The researchers allow that the people they studied, mostly low income women with spotty access to dental care, clearly limits the study. However, the potential link they found between c-section births and cavities is part of a growing body of evidence linking oral health to pregnancy and birth issues. Other studies have found that women with gum disease are more likely to deliver premature, low-birth-weight babies. More studies need to be done to determine how, exactly, oral hygiene affects infant development.

Meanwhile, though, there’s enough evidence to suggest that it’s important for expecting mothers to have their teeth checked.

  • Anonymous

    There is emerging research that indicates that inoculation with mom’s bacteria during vaginal birth has a host of benefits for babies – thank you for shedding light on this. However,  your opening statement, that Cesarean birth is “seemingly easier on the baby”, goes against solid evidence that routine Cesarean birth  (particularly in the absence of labor) is correlated with many disadvantages for babies, including more respiratory distress after birth, longer stays in the NICU, and greater incidence of allergies and asthma later in life. That journey through the “narrow” birth canal is just what nature intended – and as your article points out, there are many mechanisms in normal physiological birth that we are just now beginning to uncover.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science